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Podcasts in the time of social distancing

Amrita V Nair | Updated on March 20, 2020 Published on March 20, 2020

All talk: The interview podcasts are like a long after-dinner conversation with a celebrity or a subject matter expert   -  ISTOCK.COM

Here are five interview-based podcasts that’ll keep you in touch with the world’s most interesting people

We’ve all, at some point in time or the other, attempted to answer or at least heard of that popular small-talk question: If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would it be? I suppose that the popularity of this question stems from the fact that nearly all of us have celebrities or subject matter experts whom we admire and would like to get the chance to have a long conversation with.

While few of us would ever have the chance to realise such a wish, interview podcasts provide the next best alternative. It is no surprise therefore that this is a massively popular genre in the podcasting sphere.

Here are some of the best ones.

The Joe Rogan Experience

Hosted by comedian and media host Joe Rogan, The Joe Rogan Experience is one of the most popular podcasts in the world. Routinely ranked at the top of best podcast lists and charts, Rogan’s show receives over 200 million downloads every month and is available in both audio and video formats.

Featured guests come from a wide array of fields and have included the likes of US senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, professional cyclist Lance Armstrong, technology entrepreneur Elon Musk and actor Robert Downey Jr.

The podcast is a behemoth and its sociocultural impact is tremendous. For instance, Andrew Yang’s 2020 US presidential campaign received a major boost after his appearance on the podcast. Rogan also does not shy away from controversy and he has in the past featured controversial guests such as far-right political commentator Gavin McInnes.

Journalist Theodore Kupfer described Rogan best when he wrote, “...Rogan will host guests who believe anything, as long as they’re interesting”. While this lack of discernment renders some of the episodes tough to listen to, Rogan is an excellent interviewer who provides his guests a neutral platform to express themselves in and the podcast serves an important cultural function by enabling people across ideological divides to hear from each other. Listen at podcasts. joerogan.net.

Good One

Explaining a joke, we’ve all been warned, might be the easiest way to ruin it. Good One, hosted by Vulture.com senior editor Jesse David Fox, puts no stock in this warning though as each episode of the podcast features a comedian explaining how a joke or a bit from their set was created and the process behind its crafting. It is truly fascinating to hear about the meticulous effort that goes into refining a joke until it is perfect. Featured guests include comedic legends such as Seinfeld and Weird Al Yankovic as well as contemporary favourites such as Aparna Nancherla and John Mulaney. These comedians also talk about their careers more broadly and share lessons learned on the way to success in a competitive and crowded field. Listen at vulture.com/news /good-one-podcast.

Ologies

Hosted by science writer and television personality Alie Ward, Ologies is a science podcast featuring interviews with experts (or ‘-ologists’ as the podcast calls them) from an exceptionally diverse array of fields. Ward is a fantastic interviewer whose infectious enthusiasm and curiosity makes each episode a delight. She is also exceptionally skilled at drawing out the intriguing and interesting aspects of the most mundane fields. The show has featured ‘-ologists’ studying well known fields such as palaeontology (the study of dinosaurs) and genealogy (the study of family trees) but I am particularly fond of episodes featuring experts who have devoted their time to the study of quirky and obscure fields such as demonology (the study of evil spirits) and corvid thanatology (the study of crow funerals). Listen at www.alieward.com /ologies.

No SugarCoat

Hosted by pâtissier and businesswoman Pooja Dhingra, No SugarCoat was a podcast that ran for 11 episodes in 2018. The podcast features candid, and often hilarious, conversations with chefs and other members of the food industry. Guests have included chef and former MasterChef Australia host Gary Mehigan, food writer Rashmi Uday Singh, and coffee entrepreneur Matt Chitharanjan.

Though it had a limited run with new episodes yet to be announced, the podcast provides a captivating glimpse into the ins and outs of the restaurant and food industry in India and beyond. Listen at www.maedinindia.in/nosugarcoat.

The Ezra Klein Show

Hosted by political journalist Ezra Klein, his eponymous podcast features longform interviews with the movers and shakers in American politics and society today. And that is no hyperbole.

In January 2017, for instance, a fortnight before leaving office, US President Barack Obama was interviewed on the podcast. Other guest have included author Yuval Noah Harari, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tracy K Smith. Each episode usually also has an overall focus that helps guide the conversation.

Klein is an adept interviewer — asking difficult questions and playing the devil’s advocate often enough to draw out the nuances of the topic at hand while also providing his guests the space and the silence to meander towards related topics. My favourite part of the show, however, is the closing segment where Klein asks his guest to recommend three books to the readers. Listen at www.vox.com/ezra-klein-show -podcast.

Amrita V Nair is a freelance writer, public policy specialist and podcast enthusiast

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Published on March 20, 2020
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